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Freshmen Showcased on CPAC Stage

A diverse group of freshman Republicans are on display at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday — but they insist neither their gender nor their race is important.

“Looking at [Kristi Noem (S.D.), Allen West (Fla.)] and myself, you can see the great diversity this election brought,” Rep. Raul Labrador (Idaho) told a packed crowd of grass-roots conservative activists Thursday. Noem and Labrador addressed the conference Thursday. West was promoted from a Thursday morning spot to be the event’s keynote speaker later this weekend.

In his speech, Labrador made note of the fact that a Latino, black and female Republican were opening the conference.

“We represent the three shades of the Republican Party. Now if only Speaker [John] Boehner was here, you could see the fourth,” he quipped of the Ohioan.

Labrador explicitly referenced his ethnicity, noting that he was born in Puerto Rico and therefore a citizen.

“And I do have the birth certificate to prove it,” he said, a reference to groups that do not believe President Barack Obama is a citizen. The quip prompted raucous laughter.

But the freshman lawmaker was quick to distance himself from any hint of identity politics, saying that, “conservative values and ideals know no ethnic background or geographic boundaries.”

Being a conservative is “not from your neighborhood, the color of your skin or your gender,” he added.

Noem avoided the topic of GOP diversity, sticking largely to meat-and-potatoes conservative themes. For instance, speaking about the freshman class she used her speech to praise the work of tea party activists, saying, “None of us got here on our own. We got here with your help.”

She also struck an anti-Washington tone, which has long been popular with attendees at CPAC.

“A lot of us freshmen don’t have a whole lot of knowledge about how Washington, D.C., is operated, and frankly we don’t really care,” she said to loud applause.

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